A Trip to a Vietnamese Floating Market

(by Sharyn Nilsen)
A trip to the Mekong Delta is like peering into a completely foreign and exotic world. The lives of those who live in the Delta are inextricably linked to the ebb and flow of one of the world’s mightiest waterways. And nowhere is this exhibited better than in the bustling, floating markets that proliferate throughout this “Waterworld”. To see the sunrise over the Mekong Delta’s the riverbanks burst into life with hundreds of boats tethered together in a frenzy of colors and smells, is a truly exceptional experience.

Floating markets or “Cho Noi”, are every bit as vibrant, colorful and chaotic as those found on land, but adding water to the mix provides an extra allure. Trading starts at 4 or 5a.m., and usually finishes before lunch. So, it is recommended to get up early to experience the pulsating energy of the market in full swing. Breakfast can be enjoyed on-site as small sampans,weaving in and about the vendors,serve delicious food and drinks. Trying out the local specialties is definitely a highlight, and the early morning light also provides for superb photo opportunities.

The sheer amount of trade in the Mekong Delta means there’s a floating market in almost every province. Regardless of any itinerary and time-frame, there’s no excuse not to explore at least one during a visit to Southern Vietnam.

Cai Rang is one of the most popular floating markets and takes place just a few miles from the city center of Can Tho; about four hours from Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). Spending a night in Can Tho is necessary to see the market at its most vibrant time.

It’s worth spending the time to explore further than just the people buying and selling fruit and vegetables, as there’s a whole infrastructure that supports the daily gathering.  And the best way to explore what’s happening is to head out on the water and get among the action. I.e. drifting by floating restaurants and bars, cafes, fuel stations, and many other types of goods necessary for daily life in the Mekong.

A visit to a floating market in the Mekong Delta is a highlight of any visit to Southern Vietnam. The color, energy and the sheer ingenuity of the people to survive and thrive in this aquatic wonderland will provide memories that will last a lifetime.